Friday, September 07, 2012

The Road to Brazil! Your essential guide to the European qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup

National Stadium, Malta

From Reykjavik to Ta'Qali, Glasgow to Moscow, this weekend stadiums right across Europe will see 53 nations starting out on the road to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. There are nine groups in all, with the group winners guaranteed automatic passage to South America. The eight runners-up with the best records will enter two-legged play-offs in November next year to determine the other four European qualifiers. Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the nine qualifying groups.

Eidur Gudjohnsen or Emile Heskey, anyone? Ten free-agent strikers in search of a club

The transfer window may have slammed shut on Friday night but that does not spell the end for comings and goings for many Premier League clubs. Free agents are eligible to join sides and readily available, offering one last chance for managers to boost their squads before the window reopens in January.


World Cup qualifiers: 10 things we're looking forward to this weekend

Russia's Fabio Capello and France's Didier Deschamps are among the coaches hoping for a winning start, while David Villa, Germany and New Zealand will be keen to bounce back.


2014 World Cup Qualifying Previews

Who: Jamaica vs United States
When: 8pm EDT
Where: Independence Park, Kingston, Jamaica
U.S. TV: beIN Sport 1

2014 World Cup Qualifiers: Group by group look at European teams' prospects

As the battle for the 13 European places at the 2014 World Cup starts, some of the 53 sides will take qualification almost for granted while others will just hope to keep the scores down.

Barney Ronay: Poor Cristiano Ronaldo in his gold top hat, moping like Cesc Fábregas

The news that the footballing superstar, the world's most delighted man, is 'unhappy' at Real Madrid was hard to digest.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast assesses the setbacks incurred by Real Salt Lake and Columbus and previews the lone match of the weekend.

Jonathan Wilson: Sabella meshes Argentina's abundance of attacking talent

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi ... no other nation comes even remotely close to Argentina in terms of attacking and creative talent. The problem has been trying to fit as many of them as possible into the same squad. It did for Diego Maradona and it did for Sergio Batista.

Grant Wahl: After Tottenham transfer, Dempsey can now focus on what's important

There's a scene at the end of the fourth season of Breaking Bad, the remarkable TV series about a high school teacher who tries to make it as a meth kingpin, that reminds me of the recent transfer saga involving U.S. soccer star Clint Dempsey. No, it's not an exact comparison -- Dempsey isn't dealing meth; this wasn't life-or-death -- and if you don't want any spoilers you should go read another story.
But in the scene, the formerly unassuming teacher, Walter White, is on the phone with his wife, who's watching a TV news report of a bomb blast at a retirement center, one that has taken out the longstanding kingpin -- who, incidentally, wanted Walter White dead. "What happened?" asks his wife, who gets a two-word reply. "I won."

Steven Gerrard says England must believe at start of World Cup journey

"When I speak I'm realistic and honest: at the moment, we're not one of the favourites to win the World Cup," Gerrard said. "But that doesn't mean you stop believing or stop working hard to try and improve and learn from the mistakes you've made at previous tournaments. This team has every chance to improve and get better over the next few years, with players coming through and other players who boast experience in the squad. We have to have that faith and keep believing. Miracles do happen in football. That's been proved."

Bentley swaps Spurs for Russia on loan

Bentley joined Spurs from Blackburn in 2008 for a then club record fee of $23.9 million having started his professional career at their north London rivals Arsenal.

Nani switch to Zenit derailed by Man United winger's 'unreal' wage demands

"If Hulk had demanded €8 million to €10 million a year, these conditions would have been unacceptable for Zenit," Mitrofanov told the Daily Mail. "The transfer of Nani failed mostly due to this reason, as he asked for an enormous salary and we would not pay him."

Thursday, September 06, 2012

It's Pretty Quiet Today

There's really nothing going on. All of a sudden people think Wayne Rooney's best days might be behind him, Sagna voices what everyone is thinking and it's mega-news, and there are plenty of articles about England ahead of tomorrow's World Cup qualifiers. The U.S. play Jamaica tomorrow night but we can look into that tomorrow.  -SANFORD

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

MLS Week 26 Power Rankings: Injuries, signings, hirings in full tilt

Breaking down all of the significant happenings, both on and off the field, from Week 26 in MLS:

Number One: San Jose Earthquakes (W/L/T: 16-6-5)
Leave it to the well-balanced Earthquakes to come up with four goals and have none of them be scored by forwards. The Quakes conduced a set-piece clinic in their domination over Chivas USA to assume their place back atop the Supporters' Shield standings after Sporting Kansas City had pulled even momentarily over the weekend. After a brief, few-game lull, the Quakes appear back to their peak sharpness.

Michael Owen joins Stoke City on free transfer

The 32-year-old, who requires Premier League approval to complete the move, is a free agent after leaving United. "We have been in talks for a while and it was a club I was always keen to join," said Owen, who has also played for Newcastle United and Real Madrid.

Paul Doyle: Zenit St Petersburg hope Hulk and Axel Witsel money will do the talking

The Russian champions have lured two stars in their prime who were coveted by more prestigious clubs, demonstrating the seriousness of their Champions League challenge.

Demba Ba gets driving ban after twice being caught speeding

The 27-year-old had failed to attend court at two previous hearings as well as the sentencing without providing a reason.

Martin Samuel: In the era of the owner-manager, you'll never work alone

This has been football's summer of the owner-manager. Meet the new kid on the block.  The most important employee at the club used to be the man who picked the team. Now it is the man who picks the team from which the  team is picked. And that isn’t the manager. Not any more. Changing rules have created changed empowerment. It is not enough to know what is best for the team these days. The manager may think he needs a centre half, but this information is factored in with other policies, cash expectancy, the rafts of red tape now wrapped around what was a simple process of buying the best fit for the starting XI.

Money can't buy Ronaldo love

"Can't buy me love, 
Everybody tells me so, 
Can't buy me love, 
No, no, no, no." 

The Beatles, Can't Buy Me Love.

I think that's probably the first time I've kicked-off an article with song lyrics. You know the one. You're probably singing along right now, aren't you? You probably know just why I've opened with those lyrics, too. 

Cristiano Ronaldo denies accusations reason behind unhappiness is he wants more money at Real Madrid.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

For the first time in a long time, Real Mallorca have a coach who doesn't have a pistol pointed permanently at his head.

Real Mallorca ready to shoot for the stars under Joaquín Caparrós.

Jonathan Wilson: Africa Cup of Nations qualifying is a rushed mess – but fascinating

Ivory Coast, Senegal and Cameroon are big names exposed by a qualifying process squashed into eight months as the African federation switches its tournament to odd-numbered years.

Dempsey speaks about Fulham saga, looking ahead

"I'm disappointed in the way I was portrayed, in the end, with Fulham,'' Dempsey said. "I always wanted to play at the highest level possible. That was never a secret. That's something I always said. It would be a dream of mine to play Champions League and you want to play on the best team possible to try to get there. That's definitely a team with a lot of quality in it, but now it's all about the team that I'm with.'' The saga started over the summer, when Dempsey - who was in the last year of his Fulham deal - first was linked to Liverpool when Reds coach Brendan Rodgers acknowledged inquiring about his availability. Fulham coach Martin Jol later said Dempsey refused to play for the club, one of the salvos in a back-and-forth that led to Dempsey tweeting that there were two sides to the story. On Monday, Dempsey said he was simply relieved to look ahead.

MLS: Five things we learned in Week 26

• Columbus Crew end Montreal Impact's winning streak
• Johnson unlikely hero for Real Salt Lake against DC United
• Chicago Fire take their chances to beat tired Houston Dynamo
• Sporting Kansas City's overturn half-time deficit to win
• San Jose Earthquakes ease past Chivas USA as rivals battle

Americans Abroad

Jones scores as Schalke 04 wins

Jermaine Jones started and scored for Schalke on Saturday as the club outclassed FC Augsburg 3-1. Jones' goal came just after the restart as he dribbled past a few defenders before putting one in off the woodwork. The win was the first for Schalke this season.

The Rest

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Markus Babbel is under pressure after his nine-man Hoffenheim were destroyed 4-0 at home by Eintracht Frankfurt.

500 litres of beer, 800 Bratwürste – but no points for hapless Hoffenheim.

Tim Vickery in South America

World Cup qualification resumes in South America this Friday, with a question mark hanging over the team which have been the continent's form side over the past two years. Might the London Olympics mark an unwelcome turning point for Uruguay?

On the face of it there should be no cause for alarm. World Cup semi-finalists in 2010, Copa America champions last year, Uruguay's senior side have gone 18 games without defeat. They have made a solid start to the 2014 qualifiers. Leaders Chile sit out Friday's round, where a win for Uruguay would take them to the top of the table.

But from certain angles, in the light of what happened in the Olympics, the glass does not look quite so full.

Zenit St Petersburg spend £64m to sign Hulk and Witsel

Brazil striker Hulk, who had talks with Chelsea in May, has joined Zenit St Petersburg from Porto in a transfer deal worth £32m. The 26-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the Russian champions, who are managed by Luciano Spalletti.

Liverpool Fallout

Henry Winter: Liverpool owner John W Henry offers some laughable points with his letter to fans

David Conn: John W Henry admits he and FSG have made Liverpool mistakes too

Andy Hunter: Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool position undermined by FSG over Dempsey

Liverpool reject Michael Owen deal

Liverpool's striker hunt may start from within the club

Football Weekly: Liverpool's problems mount after Arsenal defeat

Jimbo and the podders reflect on Brendan Rodgers' woes on and off the pitch. Plus, Paolo Di Canio loses his rag, and Cristiano Ronaldo loses his mojo.

It's a vintage lineup for today's Football Weekly, with James Richardson joined by Jonathan Wilson, Rob Smyth and John Ashdown.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The returning Giallorossi coach has his team pressing, chasing and attacking opponents just like in his previous tenure.

Roma make time stand still under Zdenek Zeman as Inter are swat aside.

Phil Ball in Spain

Falcao and friend...

It's been quite a week again, what with the usual last-minute shenanigans surrounding the transfer deadline, the SuperCopa clásico Round Two, the Champions League draw and more happiness for the city of Madrid on Friday night with Atlético's storming victory over Chelsea in the European Super Cup, played over in Monaco. Has the season only just started? Phew.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Monday Musings with Gabriele Marcotti: Ronaldo sad, Ferguson rolls the dice

Cristiano Ronaldo is sad.

We know this because he told us. He didn't celebrate the two goals he scored against Granada on Sunday in Real Madrid's 3-0 win and, after the match, explained just why. "I am sad and the club knows it, that's why I didn't celebrate the goals," he said. "The people in the club know why."

Dimitar Berbatov rips Sir Alex Ferguson

The Bulgarian striker last week joined Fulham in a deal worth a reported 5 million pounds ($7.9 million) after falling out of favor at United.

The 31-year-old cost United 30.75 million pounds ($48.8 million) in 2008 and was the Premier League's top scorer in 2010-11 but made just 12 league appearances last season.

"I found it hard to accept his decision -- I still have my dignity. I scored many goals, I won the league two times, and I was the league top scorer, so it's not bad.

Liverpool's transfer strategy defended in open letter by John W Henry

Liverpool's principal owner, John W Henry, has taken the unusual step of defending the club's calamitous end to the transfer window in an open letter to supporters that appears to condemn Brendan Rodgers' pursuit of Clint Dempsey.

Phil McNulty: Arsenal defeat adds to Liverpool's off-field worries

Liverpool's inner workings will soon be exposed to public gaze via a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It may be to their eternal relief that the cameras stopped rolling before transfer deadline day. The events of the last 72 hours would have held huge appeal for football voyeurs - but may have made grim viewing for manager Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group.

England: Premier League Weekend Reports, Analyses, Etc.

Manchester City 3 - 1 QPR

Newcastle 1 - 1 Aston Villa

Tottenham 1 - 1 Norwich

Southampton 2 - 3 Manchester United

Liverpool 0 - 2 Arsenal

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review

Champions Juventus sent out a resounding message to their title rivals with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Udinese. Roma also made their intentions for the season clear with an outstanding 3-1 win at Inter Milan. Lazio are one of the sides with a 100% record thanks to their 3-0 win over Palermo. Napoli are also among that group following a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina. On Saturday, Giampaolo Pazzini scored a hat-trick as AC Milan beat Bologna 3-1, while Torino recorded a 3-0 home win over Pescara.


Spain: La Liga Weekend Reviews

Barcelona retained the only 100% record in Spain's La Liga with a fine strike by Adriano sinking struggling Valencia 1-0. Real Madrid registered their first league victory of the season after a comfortable 3-0 win over Granada at the Bernabeu. Athletic Bilbao put an end to their nightmare start to the season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Valladolid at San Mames.

Martin Rogers: Clint Dempsey's move to Tottenham makes him highest-paid U.S. soccer player ever

The terms of EPL contracts are not made public but a source close to the deal confirmed that Dempsey is committed to Tottenham until 2015, with Fulham receiving a transfer fee of $9.6 million as compensation for losing their biggest star.

Fan does a faceplant while trying to catch ball at Morelia-Pumas match

As he leaned forward to try and make the grab, he lost his footing and faceplanted into the seat in front of him.

Monday MLS Breakdown

One word tends to make all the difference in the coaching ranks, but the recent alteration of a key term in his job title didn't much matter to Philadelphia manager John Hackworth after the Union's 0-0 draw with New England on Saturday night.

The Fifth Official: Van Persie's spot of bother, Carroll singing

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.